Rappers are everywhere in New York politics

Believe the hype.

Jay-Z and ex-Gov. David Paterson at a press conference in 2009.

Jay-Z and ex-Gov. David Paterson at a press conference in 2009. Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Gone are the days of New York elected officials turning up their noses at hip-hop. Today, the genre has entered the halls of power in the state that birthed it. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has dubbed himself “the hip-hop mayor.” The New York City Council designated Nov. 15 as “Ol’ Dirty Bastard Day” to honor the late Wu-Tang rapper. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries makes hip-hop mixtapes. The Bronx is getting a Hip Hop Museum next year.

But it’s not just elected officials embracing hip-hop. A number of artists have embraced politics in turn.

South Bronx native Fat Joe has entrenched himself in the political scene – both in the state and nationally. He recently joined Vice President Kamala Harris for a roundtable discussion about marijuana reform, attended President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech and has long been an advocate for health care price transparency. Brooklyn native Jay-Z often endorses mayoral or presidential candidates, advocated for a New York bill to limit when prosecutors can cite song lyrics and other forms of creative expression as evidence in court, made a bid to bring a casino to Times Square and supported community economic initiatives like the recent tribute exhibition recognizing his career at the Brooklyn Public Library. Jay-Z has certainly garnered a lot of love. A City Council bill proposed last year would have recognized his birthday as an official holiday. Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg even wrote a glowing entry for him in the 2013 Time magazine list of the 100 most influential people.

Artists haven’t been afraid to criticize elected officials directly – even the self proclaimed “hip-hop mayor.” When Adams announced plans to launch a pilot program to distribute prepaid debit cards to migrant families earlier this year, 50 Cent quickly criticized the idea, saying “Can’t explain this I’m stuck maybe TRUMP is the answer.” (A few days later he said he had talked to the mayor and was no longer mad at him and was turning his criticism to Gov. Kathy Hochul.) Cardi B posted a livestream video last year in which she slammed Adams for announcing a set of budget cuts, claiming that crime would explode due to the proposed cuts to the police department. The rapper has used her platform for social political activism for some time, having hosted interviews with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Biden and paid the funeral costs for the 17 people who died in a Bronx fire in 2022.

An array of rappers and hip-hop artists have also stopped by the state Capitol or made an appearance with Adams in recent years. The New York City mayor has honored Biggie, partied with French Montana and A$AP Rocky, and met with Jim Jones to name just a few. Among the rappers who've visited the state Capitol this year alone include Slick Rick, who was there to seek support for his Victory Patch Foundation and to be honored for his career, Papoose, who delivered an address arguing rap lyrics shouldn’t be used in court, Kurtis Blow, who spent time with lawmakers while trying to win support for a new holiday called the No Profanity Day, and Nas, who has been working with Resorts World Casino in Queens to expand its plans.